Sunday, June 19, 2011
rosemary apricot (pear) squares
Earlier this Spring when I bought plants for my "garden", I grabbed some rosemary knowing that this recipe was on the Baked Sunday Morning calendar. I don't use that herb very often, but it was actually cheaper to buy the whole plant than it is to by a package of "fresh" rosemary at the grocery store. Can't get much fresher than my backyard.
I'm actually pretty proud of my garden. The herbs are doing beautifully, the lettuce is coming along great. We've had a few green onions so far. The tomatoes have flowers and Cha's been eating strawberries. I think that's the best part, watching her enjoy the plants. She loves seeing how fast and tall they are growing.
But I disgress. This week's recipe was the Rosemary Apricot Squares on page 121 of Baked Explorations. It's another one of those recipe that seemed good, but wasn't necessarily on my to-bake list, like say, the Mississippi mud pie that's not even on the calendar! I really, really want to make that!
So these squares have a rosemary scented crust, a fruit filling and a crumbly nutty topping. I started the filling first, because my butter wasn't quite soft enough to be used for the crust yet. I couldn't find California or unsulfured apricots, so I used the "freaky science experiment" orange ones that my grocery store stocks. Surprised at the price of them too. I didn't have brandy, so I used Tripe Sec and added a strip of lemon peel just to brighten things up. I let that simmer away while I made my crust, but didn't really keep an eye on it, and it burned. I've only been cooking on this stove for over three years, you'd think I know that it's impossible to simmer something on the front burner. It's only good for boiling pasta. I tried puréeing it anyways, but it tasted really bad, so the whole thing went into the garbage.
By that time, I had already made the crust by creaming 3/4 cups butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 3/4 tsp vanilla, then adding 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 1/2 tsp rosemary. Since I was using a 8 inch pan, I pressed my dough up the sides of the pan too, so the bottom layer wouldn't be too thick. Some people thought it was still too thick, but I liked it.
While the crust was chilling in the fridge, I went to the store and decided to go with dried pears instead of the apricots. I baked the crust for 30 minutes and made the fruit layer again. 2 cups of dried pears, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp Triple Sec and a pinch of salt simmered *on the back burner* for 40 minutes. As I was puréeing it, I really regretted not adding a vanilla bean in with the pears. It would have been awesome.
Most of the filling went on the crust, and since I was using a smaller pan than called for, I sandwiched the leftovers between crackers for snack. Yum. Would have been good with some cheese too! I made the topping in the same unwashed bowl I had used for the crust. Less dishes! Score!
Before I started making recipes from the Baked guys, I had never used dark brown sugar but now I always have to keep it in the pantry, because they use it almost exclusively. 1/2 cup of it was mixed with 1/2 cup of flour, 1/3 cup pecans and a pinch of salt. Then 3 tablespoons of cold butter went in until the mixture was crumbly. Sprinkle that on the fruit layer, and 30 minutes in the 350 oven. I turned on the broiler for a few minutes afterwards to get the topping nice and brown.
I was very happy to see that it cut really easily. The crust is really, really nice. It's crisp but not hard, and has the texture of a shortbread almost. I couldn't tell there was rosemary in it, it certainly didn't taste "herby", but I think it cut through the sweetness a bit, and lent a fresh taste to the dessert. My layers are way thicker than the pictures, but that's too be expected with the smaller pan. I found that there was a bit too much of the fruit layer for my taste. It was very tasty, but it's a good thing that the crust provided some much needed texture. The topping was very crumbly and soft, not clumpy and crispy, and went very well with the other two layers. I'm not a big fan of nuts, but I didn't mind them here at all. Overall, a very nice dessert!
So two weeks ago we had a tart, this week a square with a crust, next time, it'll be pie. I've never made so many crusts in my life! But so far so good! To see what the others bakers thought of this square, and for the complete recipe, visit the Baked Sunday Morning site.